It's not the end of the World…

Some people were worried about Nostradamus' predictions and the Mayan calendar foretelling the end of the world on December 21st, 2012. But here we are in 2013 and the end of the world has yet to come. I was driving down the road a little before this 'fateful' day and listening to a radio show where callers were encouraged to share what they would do in the few days preceding the apocalypse. And that led me to think…. What have we been missing?
This may not be the end of the world, but I would like to see Quebec do better than sixth place overall in terms of productivity per cow in Canada. This is a significant challenge since we are nearly 1,000 kilos per cow behind British Columbia. However, this is only based on an average. In fact, 40% of Quebec's dairy farmers (according to Valacta's 2011 annual report) get better results than the average herd in Western Canada, and the best three averages of milk per cow (BCA) were from here! So this message is for the remaining 60% of Quebec's dairy farmers.

This may not be the end of the world, but considering the price of feed, the concept of milking fewer cows to fulfill the same quota is an appealing way to increase profitability. For the past two years the cost of corn or protein sources has often been a topic of conversation; however, in reality the cost of fodder is also quite high. The problem is that most people think about cutting expenses instead of maximizing their revenue. This may seem like a normal reflex since we are looking at bills for feed, supplements and minerals every two weeks, while hay and silage are stored and out of sight and seem free. I'm not suggesting anything extreme by feeding more concentrates, but rather by making the most of the feed served to the herd. When the same quantity of milk can be produced with 10 or 20 fewer cows, we are gaining more acreage for other crops, such as grain corn, soya or canola depending on the region.

To reach these two objectives, productivity and maximizing feed cost, high lactation peaks are required. This is a key factor for improvement when we know that, and studies have proven this, lactation peaks have a greater impact than persistence on overall production. Good lactation peaks require a strong start and a strong start requires a superior transition period.

This may not be the end of the world, but La Coop network has been talking about transition programs for over 15 years. It is the shortest period in the production cycle but incredibly important in terms of results! In 1996, with the support of CRF research, we launched the Transilac™ program and its own line of products. And did you know that over 80% of farmers in the Club Synchro 750 use them? However, this rate does not apply to the Quebec farmers for whom this message is intended.

In terms of productivity, we're somewhat behind other Canadian provinces and the US. Are we focusing on the right elements? Why is a feed program for calves so obvious but not as relevant to have one for dry cows that are transitioning?

This may not be the end of the world, but we need to get to work and fast! Quebec improved its average first calving age by about 3 months over a 25 year period…. I should hope that we can do better in terms of productivity.

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